do the math: energy vampires

Three years ago we were driving in Acadia National Park when we saw a Bald Eagle.  This lovely shot of power lines was the best picture we got of it.  You are correct, there is no Bald Eagle in the picture.

Three years ago we were driving in Acadia National Park when we spotted a Bald Eagle. This lovely shot of power lines was the best picture we got of it.

Welcome to  “Do The Math.”  In “do the math” I’ll be doing the math behind the simple changes to your lifestyle that can result in tens of thousands of dollars in additional wealth by the time you retire.  Today on we’re going to be talking about energy vampires.

I recently wrote about zero-effort changes you can make to your lifestyle that will immediately save you money.  Number 1 on that list was unplugging devices when they’re not in use.  “The average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode).“  So, let’s look and see how much those cash-sucking energy vampires are really costing you.

Let’s say you read that and thought “Hot diggity, I’ma save me some monies.”  You go Glen Coco.  So, you start unplugging all electronics when not in use and take the money you would have spent on the monthly bill, save it, and at the conclusion of 1 year, invest it that $100 in a Roth IRA.  You simply put it in some low-cost S&P 500 index fund, and forget it for the next 30 years.  How much would removing a plug from the wall for just one year save you over the course of your working life (we’re all over achievers, so nobody here is going to work for more than 30 years unless they want to).


  • A= Amount; what you’ll end up with.
  • P= Principal; the money you’re investing.
  • R= Interest Rate; We’ll use 8%, which isn’t unreasonable.
  • N= Compoundings Per Period; let’s go with 1.  It’s easy.
  • T= Number of Periods; how many years.


You would end up with an extra $1,000 30 years from now if, for the next year, you unplugged electronics when not in use.  Not super impressive, I know.  I mean, yeah, one grand isn’t too bad, but you’re not going to retire on it.  But what about if you added $100, (or $8.33 each month) to this account?  How much would you then have at then end of 30 years?

A little over $13,000.  Boom!  That’s what I’m talking about.  And that’s assuming the costs of electricity and the number of gadgets you unplug stay the same.

Seriously though, $13,000 is nice, and maybe come 2045, that will cover 2 or 3 months of expenses (for some people, that will only cover 2 or 3 months worth of expenses now).  But this is just one small change that results in a big piece of pie.  Combine a bunch of these small money-saving habits and soon you’re looking at a pile of money big enough to swim in Scrooge McDuck style.  Although make sure it’s new currency, because used money is filthy.

What do ya’ll think?  Is this a big enough savings to make the unplugging of electronics worth it?



  1. I can’t imagine unplugging my internet every night, it’s a pain just setting up it. What about lamps, fans etc.? Should does be unplugged as well?

    Henry @ Living At Home recently posted…Recent Buy – Markel (MKL)My Profile

  2. I can do better in this area. There are a few things I always make sure to unplub, computer microwave, but I can unplug TV and some other things I am sure. It isn’t that hard of a process… just unplug when done. It is just developing the habit.
    Kipp recently posted…August Stock Purchase and Dividend UpdateMy Profile

  3. I’m sooo bad for this honestly. What I really need are those power bars that will flip off because I suck at trying to remember to plug and unplug everything.
    Alicia recently posted…Gaming the Demise of the Penny.My Profile

  4. What’s up with these complex mathematical formulas? I went to law school to avoid math =) j/k. Anyways, I know that there are savings and I try to be more vigilant about stopping these energy vampires but I could do better. I always unplug before a long vacation, but often forget on regular days.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Should I Renew My AAA Membership?My Profile

  5. I see this equation and I feel terrible!! I need to do a better job at unplugging. Maybe I can make this into a challenge (we love challenges in our home) to see how much we save. Great post.
    Brit recently posted…Latest Coupons For 08/21/2014My Profile

  6. I love that you did this but in all honesty, it’s probably not going to be an area I put much focus in. Aside from keeping the lights off and living in a very small apartment which an already low energy bill, I probably wouldn’t go throughout the hassle of unplugging absolutely everything when I go to sleep or leave the house. But I do think it’s a great reminder to be conscious of the energy we are consuming though! I really do wish I could shut down this beast of a compute at night without it making my life a complete nightmare! :)
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Healthy Acts of DefianceMy Profile

    • I hear ya Tonya. Sometimes, honestly, it makes sense to focus your attention on what yields the best results. If you’re only going to save a nickel or so every month, I can absolutely see it not being worth it. I think most bloggers though have a pretty good grip on frugality and balance (from what I’ve read).

  7. You go Glen Coco! I unplug about 50% of what isn’t in use, or it’s plugged into a surge protector and flip off the the switch to keep it from drawing power. I’m also neurotic about switching off all the lights as I leave a room and wait until the last possible moment before I turn them on. Our electric bill is only about $25 each on a high month — so I think we’re doing a-okay.
    Broke Millennial recently posted…Leaving a Job? Here’s How to Rollover a 401(k)My Profile

  8. Power strips are a great idea! We don’t actually have that many things plugged in to begin with, but we could certainly be better about unplugging when not in use. Thanks for the tip (and the sweet mathematics)!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Frugal Hound Sniffs: Free To PursueMy Profile

  9. I am definitely not as good with unplugging as I could be and your math just makes an excellent point about how little changes can add up over the course of many years. A few dollars doesn’t seem like a lot not, but it is amazing what compounding interest and investing can do for those measly dollars.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Shameless Plug Sort OfMy Profile

  10. Hm, it doesn’t make a huge difference, but I like to be aware of when I’m wasting power, so I do try and stay mindful. I’m great at turning lights off! One thing I am horrible at, though, is turning my computer off. It’s the silliest thing, but it’s kind of slow to turn off and on, so I just leave it on. I’m getting better at this day by day as my dad yells at me for it all the time =) (he’s a computer geek).
    Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted…A Reintroduction of SortsMy Profile

  11. We use switch power strips and our electric bill is under $45/month and half of that is thanks to freaking fees and taxes.
    Kassandra @ More Than Just Money recently posted…Music To My Ears: BelbelMy Profile

  12. Very interesting! Nice work on the math equation. :) We’re pretty good at unplugging things and our electricity bill is always $25 or less in summer, until the winter, when we have our electric heater in use.
    Melanie @ My Alternate Life recently posted…I Can’t Take Any More SummerMy Profile

  13. You make a compelling argument, buddy. Looking at it over the long term really makes it seem like it’s worth it. I guess I could start with not having the TV on when I ‘m not really watching it!
    debs@debtdebs recently posted…Misplaced FaithMy Profile

  14. Looking at anything long term and seeing how much it really adds up is the best incentive.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…What’s YOUR Make or Break Number?My Profile

  15. I love your clean math layout, Ryan! And great post as usual.

    The savings are definitely worth it. Any amount saved without any effort is worth it!
    No More Waffles recently posted…Reaching Financial Independence When Facing the Highest Income Tax Rate in the Western WorldMy Profile

  16. I unplug a lot, and I’m one of those people who cannot stand it when lights are left on for no reason. Drives me nuts! But, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to unplug everything each night. Hopefully I’m helping us save something with the things that I do unplug!
    Lauren recently posted…Spending, Writing, ReadingMy Profile

  17. This is going to make me sound incredibly lazy, but I don’t want to constantly be turning off power strips just to make sure I’m not losing energy when I’m not using devices. It just seems like a lot of work.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…The Weekly Quick Hits RoundupMy Profile

  18. Kay@Green Money Stream says:

    The math doesn’t lie – any additional savings will add up in the long run. We practice unplugging electronics that are not in use. I like doing it because it not only saves some money but it’s just good for the earth too!

  19. Thats a nice chunk of change Ryan. Lets all unplug right now. Every little bit helps when you want to drink wine on a beer budget. LOL.

  20. I try to unplug a lot of things as well. My first house I bought I thought I was getting a good deal because it came with a bunch of appliances. I had terrible electricity bills and I couldn’t figure out why. They weren’t energy efficient at all. I ended up replacing most of them just to save some more money and add value to the house.

  21. I love this do the math series, it is so hard to see how small changes compound into big savings over time, and this really illustrates it well.

    This installment of the series though I am not a fan of. The problem is that I don’t believe you can save $100 a year. I did a study and found the savings would be more like $2/ month or about 1/4 of what the government claims. You can find my study here:

    Now I’m not the type of guy to try to convince you that $2 worthless, but going around plugging and unplugging all your stuff in all the time is just too much work for $2. If your power sockets were higher on the walls so you didn’t have to bend over that might be another matter.

    So if somebody wants to go to all that trouble to save $2 per month then good for you, I admire you. But, I think I can find easier ways to make $2.
    Andy@artofbeingcheap recently posted…This week’s best articles on how to save moneyMy Profile


  1. […] do the math: energy vampires By Ryan @ Impersonal Finance – You can save tons of money by simply unplugging. Read more and see the numbers. […]

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